Title: Vivianna’s Story
Shattered Existence Book Two
Author: Tamara White
Genre: African American
Book Heat Level: 4
A semester off from college leads Vivianna into an unexpected romance with a hardworking blue-collar man named Raymond. Raymond is everything Vivianna is not supposed to want in a man but everything she needs.
BLURB: Vivianna's Story
The love between Vivianna and Raymond and the secrets surrounding Vivianna's identity send her running away from Lakeland and rejecting everything Lakeland represents. While on their own Raymond tries desperately to show her that life is more than over the top balls, and lavish things. But as much as Vivianna desires to escape the dysfunction of Lakeland and experience a reality where she can be free to live her truth it is her endless lust for expensive things and a grand lifestyle that brings her back with a toddler Grayson in tow. Vivianna sacrifices everything even her daughter, Grayson, to get back in her mother's good graces and reclaim her seat at the dysfunctional Harrow table.
EXCERPT: Vivianna's Story
“Where are we?” Vivianna looked out the window as the streetlights reflected against the night sky. “I thought you said dinner and a movie.”
“Woman, see I knew I shouldn’t have told you anything until we got there. Next time I’m going to stick to my original plan and not say anything. Now you have that look on your face.”
“I don’t have a look. I’m just saying this doesn’t look anything like dinner and a movie. We’ve passed everything that looks familiar. I’ve never been on this side of the city.” Vivianna and her friends traveled far enough into the city to seem slumming chic. They never had any desire to experience city life fully, and they always made a concerted effort to avoid the impoverished areas. The sight of urban life up close took Vivianna back. Vivianna wasn’t naïve, she knew homeless and poor people existed; however, it was different being in an area where they lived. Vivianna’s world of balls, private schools, and world travel significantly skewed her view of life. There was something oddly fascinating about the life Vivianna saw outside the window. Vivianna couldn’t help but smile at the kids running and yelling down the sidewalk. Their clothes were well worn, a couple of the kids had holes in their pants, but the wild freedom in their eyes made Vivianna turn her head and follow them as long as she could. The kids had little and everything at the same time. They were kids experiencing childhood, not just existing in it until adulthood took over as she had.
Raymond shifted his gaze between the busy streets and the woman whom he had fallen in love with but still didn’t have the nerve to tell her. Vivianna was unlike any woman he had ever dealt with; the look in her eyes told him she wanted more than the manufactured world her parents had created for her. Raymond never saw her as an over-privileged wild child whose parents had the means to buy her out of any situation she found herself in like everyone in her life did. Raymond saw nothing but endless potential in Vivianna. Raymond resigned himself to tapping into that potential and being her everything in the process. Raymond smiled as he noted the look on her face. “What do you see? What does it look like to you, my baby?”
Vivianna looked back at Raymond as she tried her best to sit in perfect debutante style, with her ankles crossed and her hands folded, resting very ladylike on top of her Chanel skirt. The jarring of the truck as it traveled over potholes was a stark contrast to the smooth ride of her father’s chauffeured car. “Well, Momma would say it looks like those Negros are acting poor and classless. Showing their color, as Grand-Mère would say. Momma would also add they need to comb their hair and fix their clothes. Grand-Mère says appearance is above everything.” Vivianna’s Southern accent added a honey-laced sound to her ridiculous words. “Momma would say they are acting ghetto and need to stop. She would say children don’t run, they walk, and yelling is for the uneducated.”
Raymond threw his head back in laughter. The naïve way Vivianna spoke as if she wasn’t the same race as the people she stared at out the window gave him a chuckle. Raymond swore to himself he would teach her to love the people of her race the way he loved being a Black man. “Those Negros,” Raymond placed his hand on top of Vivianna’s as he maneuvered through traffic, “those Negros, as you put it, aren’t acting poor. Most of them are poor. Not all of them, but never the less most are. And poor or not most of them are decent people just trying to get through their day. Kids are supposed to be loud. They are supposed to be dirty from playing outside and running everywhere. But I didn’t ask you what your mother and grand-mère would say. I ask you what you saw.” The long pause let Vivianna know she wasn’t going to get out of answering.
“I don’t know. It’s all a lot to take in at once.”
“Well, not knowing is something we need to work on. Your mother and grand-mère are entitled to their opinion, however, you need to make sure you always have your own opinion even if it differs from theirs or mine for that matter. Always have your own mind, Vivianna.” The sound of Raymond’s thick velvety voice made Vivianna tingle. She could listen to him recite the alphabet and get turned on. Vivianna stared down at his hand on hers. Raymond softly rubbed her knee.
Vivianna stared at Raymond’s hand. She was still amazed at the contrast in their skin tone. There was something about the way his dark chocolate skin contrasted against her beige skin that she found daring and dangerous. Raymond was everything her mother had warned her against being attracted to in a man. Raymond was dark-skinned, a proud Black man who was completely unapologetic about being black. Raymond was the complete opposite of her past boyfriends and not just in looks. Raymond’s refined working-class common sense made him an intellectual giant in comparison to her last boyfriend. Raymond just seemed to know how to get through life. Vivianna’s previous boyfriends only knew how to rely on their families. Vivianna learned early on that her usual spoiled 'I get what I want' and 'you do as I say' attitude followed by her pouting wasn’t going to get her anywhere with Raymond.
Raymond pushed Vivianna’s long light brown hair away from her face. “Baby, you know they are just like you, just people living their lives. Their clothes are old, and their homes aren’t as nice as yours, but they are still people. Never let having more void your humanity.”
Vivianna pulled her hair forward again. The way her mother had trained her to wear it.
“Leave it back. I like being able to see your face.”
“Momma says it needs to be forward. To cover the scare on the corner of my hairline.” Vivianna’s voice trailed. “I had on those little patent leather shoes. And I slipped running in the foyer and caught my head on the corner stairs. Momma wore y behind out when she saw the bruise. It healed, but it never lightened back up. Momma says stands out too much and it draws the wrong type of attention. Momma gave me cream to lighten the scar when I was old enough to use it, but it burned, so I stopped.” Vivianna stared back at him with a quiet sadness. “I learned the hard way children should walk and not run.”
“Well, when you with me I want your hair back behind your ear. I like that tiny scar. It’s part of you. Perfect like you. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with having some darkness on you.”
Vivianna’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. Raymond’s skillful way of throwing in a sexual pun always caught her by surprise.
“I’ve never had anyone see my imperfections as perfections.” Vivianna quickly changed the subject. “Momma says we’re not Negros because we’re English, French, and Creole on both sides of the family and my great-great-grandmother on my Daddy’s side was half Black Hill Indian. Momma considers us displaced Anglo-Saxons. She always said we would be full English and French if it weren’t for those few slavery era indiscretions, which caused our bloodline not to flourish to its full potential.”
“That’s an interesting way to describe the enslavement of a people and the rape of the women. Is that why you have been so hesitant about introducing me to your family? I look too slavery era like?”
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have told you any of those things. Talking about Momma my mouth got the better of me. I can’t imagine how all of it sounded to you. You must think my family is horribly foolish. It’s just we pride ourselves on certain traditions. I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize. I suspected. Baby, I’ve been in the South long enough to see the time warp some people are delightedly stuck in. I’m glad we have gotten to the truth, finally. There was no need for you to keep it from me. The whole light skin dark skin thing was here before us and unfortunately will linger on after us. If Black people cared about each other the way some of us obsess over skin color and hair texture, things would be different for all of us. One day you and I are going to have a conversation about what being Black means and self-hating ideas. But not tonight, tonight is about doing dinner and a movie the Raymond way.”
“Where are we?” Vivianna couldn’t hide the shock she felt as the pickup come to rest in front of a withered and wasted apartment complex.
“My place.” A broad full-toothed grin rushed across Raymond’s face as she exited the car.
Vivianna was still in somewhat a flustered state as she got out of the truck. In three months, she had never been to Raymond’s place. They always went out and made do in the cab of his truck if things went that far, which they usually did. Vivianna jumped a little when Raymond closed the door behind her. “Raymond, is it safe? There are a lot of—”
“Baby, you’re fine. The only thing that is going to happen tonight is that you’re going to have fun my way.” Raymond guided Vivianna towards the door. Vivianna noted everything from the graffiti on the walls to the hum of the lights in the hallway and the hiss made when they flickered. The lack of airflow created a stale aroma that assaulted Vivianna’s nose. Phone numbers, more graffiti, and crude drawings of body parts littered the elevator walls. The slight shake in the elevator made Vivianna move closer to Raymond.
Vivianna was utterly taken back by Raymond’s apartment. She had never experienced a living space so small before. Milk crates held countless books and albums. The makeshift table constructed of cinder blocks and plywood; the old sheet thrown on top held papers and few seeds he forgot to wipe off. The sofa, an odd shade of burnt gold with washed-out cream-colored flowers engulfed the farthest wall. The tiny television with a hanger antenna sat on a small folding table. There were also several photographs in cheap frames, which Vivianna assumed were his family from Chicago. Vivianna gently brushed her foot across the horrendous low-end brown-colored carpet. Vivianna couldn’t get over how the noise outside competed with the voices she heard in the hallway. Raymond threw his keys on the table and ushered her through the tiny living room, and down the narrow hall. The constricted entrance made Vivianna feel big. Vivianna could hear the toilet running behind the bathroom door as Raymond guided her into the kitchen. Raymond couldn’t help but smile with pride over his place.
“It took a couple of months for me to settle in but it finally feels like home.”
Oh, God. He considers this homey.
Vivianna sat on the green-colored kitchen chair with a jagged tear in the plastic seat. The rip irritated the back of her leg. Please don’t let my skirt snag.Vivianna snatched her hands off of the tiny matching green and silver table when it wobbled under her pressure. Vivianna folded her hands in her lap. She watched Raymond pull out the frying pan. The book on the table drew her attention away.
Vivianna read the title out loud. “Who’s James Baldwin?”
“You don’t know who Baldwin is?”
Vivianna shook her head. “No, is he new?”
“New?” The disbelief in Raymond’s voice was undeniable. “Baldwin? No baby, he’s not new. I’ll add him to the list of authors and books I think you should read.”
“I noticed you have a lot of books. You must really enjoy reading?”
“Yep. I’ll take a book over TV any day. You can never read too much. Unless the Bears are playing, then damn all the books. So, you really can’t cook.” Raymond looked back and smiled at her.
“No. Momma Mae is in charge of our meals. I can make a sandwich in a pinch. Why do you cook? Didn’t you have—I mean. Sorry, I’m being rude again. One of these days I’ll learn to catch my tongue.”
Raymond chuckled softly. “No, Sweetie. We didn’t have a Momma Mae. We have an Auntie Mae. And I had a momma who made sure we all learned how to cook. Everyone helped out because everyone wanted to eat.”
As cramped as the kitchen was, the cleanliness and organization of it impressed Vivianna. Things may have been old and worn, but everything functioned smoothly. Vivianna couldn’t get over how easily Raymond moved around the kitchen, and how good everything smelled.
Raymond bent down in the refrigerator. “I’ve got beer and more beer. Which one do you want?”
Vivianna giggled. “I think I’ll take a beer.”
“Good choice.” Raymond poured the domestic beer into a plastic convenient store cup. Raymond paused and watched her sip. Vivianna held the cup as if she was holding a crystal glass. Her lips barely touched the rim of the cup as she took small controlled sips.
“What? Is there something on my face?”
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